“We learn geology the morning after the earthquake.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
President Trump’s speech announcing U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate agreement appears to be triggering the predicted response. Both domestically and globally, people everywhere, from diverse publics – whether national, state or local government; private sector; academia; or civil society; from global leaders to those in the most humble circumstances – woke up this morning expressing a blend of dismay, regret, and anger. The chatter has been deafening; it’s also been largely negative, and surprisingly diverse. People found much to dislike –whether with respect to the Earth science, the economics, the politics, or the tone. One of the more balanced responses came from Keith Seitter, Executive Director of the American Meteorological Society [full disclosure: my boss]. Published on the Society’s blog, The Front Page, the post is repeated here in its entirety:
President Trump’s speech announcing the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement emphasizes his assessment of the domestic economic risks of making commitments to climate action. In doing so the President plainly ignores so many other components of the risk calculus that went into the treaty in the first place.
There are, of course, political risks, such as damaging our nation’s diplomatic prestige and relinquishing the benefits of leadership in global economic, environmental, or security matters. But from a scientific viewpoint, it is particularly troubling that the President’s claims cast aside the extensively studied domestic and global economic, health, and ecological risks of inaction on climate change.
President Trump put it quite bluntly: “We will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine.”
The science emphatically tells us that it is not fine if we can’t. The American Meteorological Society Statement on Climate Change warns that it is “imperative that society respond to a changing climate.” National policies are not enough — the Statement clearly endorses international action to ensure adaptation to, and mitigation of, the ongoing, predominately human-caused change in climate.
In his speech, the President made a clear promise “… to be the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth … to have the cleanest air … to have the cleanest water.” AMS members have worked long and hard to enable such conditions both in our country and throughout the world. We are ready to provide the scientific expertise the nation will need to realize these goals. AMS members are equally ready to provide the scientific foundation for this nation to thrive as a leader in renewable energy technology and production, as well as to prepare for, respond to, and recover from nature’s most dangerous storms, floods, droughts, and other hazards.
Environmental aspirations, however, that call on some essential scientific capabilities but ignore others are inevitably misguided. AMS members have been instrumental in producing the sound body of scientific evidence that helps characterize the risks of unchecked climate change. The range of possibilities for future climate—built upon study after study—led the AMS Statement to conclude, “Prudence dictates extreme care in accounting for our relationship with the only planet known to be capable of sustaining human life.”
This is the science-based risk calculus upon which our nation’s climate change policy should be based. It is a far more realistic, informative, and actionable perspective than the narrow accounting the President provided in the Rose Garden. It is the science that the President abandoned in his deeply troubling decision.
Interestingly, the furor may be out of all proportion to the actual impact of the president’s statements and actions. More on that in a subsequent LOTRW post.